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Evaluation of freshwater submersion in small animals: 28 cases (1996–2006)

Geoff G. Heffner DVM1, Elizabeth A. Rozanski DVM, DACVECC, DACVIM2, Matthew W. Beal DVM, DACVECC3, Søren Boysen DVM, DACVECC4, Lisa Powell DVM, DACVECC5, and Sophie Adamantos BVSc, DACVECC, MRCVS6
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  • 1 Department of Clinical Sciences, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University, North Grafton, MA 01536.
  • | 2 Department of Clinical Sciences, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University, North Grafton, MA 01536.
  • | 3 Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824.
  • | 4 Department of Clinical Sciences, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Université de Montréal, Québec, QC J2S 2M2, Canada.
  • | 5 Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Minnesota, Saint Paul, MN 55108.
  • | 6 Emergency and Critical Care Service, The Royal Veterinary College, University of London, London, NW1 0TU, England.

Abstract

Objective—To determine clinical characteristics, treatments, and outcome in dogs and cats evaluated after submersion in freshwater.

Design—Retrospective case series.

Animals—25 dogs and 3 cats.

Procedures—Medical records were reviewed for signalment; causes, location, and month of submersion; physical examination findings at admission; results of blood gas analysis; treatments administered; duration of hospitalization; and outcome, including evidence of organ failure or compromise.

Results—All submersions involved bodies of freshwater. Fourteen animals were submerged in man-made water sources, 13 were submerged in natural water sources, and the body of water was not recorded in 1 case. Twenty (71%) submersions occurred from May through September. Cause was identified in 16 animals and included extraordinary circumstances (n = 6), falling into water (5), breaking through ice (3), and intentional submersion (2). Twelve animals were found submerged in water with unclear surrounding circumstances. Treatment included administration of supplemental oxygen, antimicrobials, furosemide, corticosteroids, and aminophylline and assisted ventilation. Respiratory dysfunction was detected in 21 animals. Neurologic dysfunction was detected in 12 animals, hepatocellular compromise was detected in 6 animals, and cardiovascular dysfunction was detected in 4 animals. Three dogs had hematologic dysfunction, and 2 dogs had acute renal dysfunction. Eighteen (64%) animals survived to hospital discharge, but all of the cats died. In 9 of 10 nonsurvivors, respiratory tract failure was the cause of death or reason for euthanasia.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results suggest that submersion is an uncommon reason for veterinary evaluation but is associated with a good prognosis in dogs in the absence of respiratory tract failure.

Contributor Notes

Presented in part in abstract form at the 12th International Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Symposium, San Antonio, Tex, September 2006.

Address correspondence to Dr. Rozanski.